Colonialism refers to the domination of one group over another using power. However, there are still 16 territories around the world that are under colonial rule.
Ever wonder why English and Spanish are considered some of the most important languages to learn? Or why they’re the most commonly used languages across the world?
The answer is colonialism.
To understand what colonialism is and how deeply it has impacted human history, imagine that you’re back in high school. There is always one cool group in class and everything they do is considered important; the rest simply try to follow in their footsteps in order to become ‘cool’. If a geek has something important to offer, it won’t be considered important by the rest of the class unless the ‘cool’ group likes it.
Colonialism is like a global high school. Here, the cool group is Europe.
The group or nation that dominates others is known as the colonist or the imperial power, while the nation being subjugated becomes the colony. This power game that colonial nations use to exploit other nations for their personal gain, impose their culture, religion and education, use their resources and maybe even physically settle there is colonization.
How did countries colonize other countries in the first place?
By 1914, most of the countries in the world had been colonized by Europe. The primary motive was to become a planetary superpower and dominate the world. Thus, many European countries, such as Italy, Portugal, Greece, Spain, England and Germany, began acquiring colonies, leading to the colonial division of the world. Thus, most of the countries in Asia and Africa were now colonies. Australia had become a settlement colony where British officials could settle and use as a prison, since no one could escape the island country.
This all started during the Age of Discovery, when European nations began seeking new trade routes; new lands were discovered by Christopher Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. These Europeans were able to acquire those lands, since the indigenous tribes did not believe in owning lands like the Europeans. The Europeans considered the indigenous tribes to be savages, cannibalistic and barbaric; under the guise of trade, the Europeans started invading these new lands and claiming ownership over them.
Their conquests were cleverly disguised with the religious justification of civilizing the savages, as though it was the moral responsibility or Europe to do so, which led to the spread of Christianity. After worshipping the elements of nature for thousands of years, the indigenous tribes of America and Africa were forcefully converted and forced to adopt Christianity, which is why it’s one of the major religions around the world.
Was colonialism a blessing or a curse?
Let’s start with the blessings, since there aren’t many, given the ironically barbaric behavior of the colonists. The colonists invested in infrastructure, trade, medical facilities and technological advancements in their colonies. They helped establish democratic systems of government and spread literacy.
Under the coat of religion, a great deal of military action was taken against the indigenous tribes. The Hispaniola people was reduced to 15,000 from 250,000 under Spanish rule. Similar acts of warfare were seen in Africa and other colonies who tried to revolt against colonization. We’re all aware of Black Slavery, and the years of racism, slavery and dehumanization that those people endured.
Indigenous people were sold off as slaves to the ‘whites’ or taken as soldiers to fight battles, especially in the World Wars. White culture, education and religion were imposed on the people of color, against their liking or wishes.
Colonization also had a deep psychological impact, not only were their lands being taken away, but also their minds. The colonists began feeling like an inferior race compared to the ‘whites’, shattering their self-esteem and poisoning their culture.
Are some territories still colonized?
After countless wars fought between colonists and colonies, a wave of decolonization swept across the world in the 20th century, liberating the majority of nations from colonial rule and establishing their independent identity. There was a political revolution after the formation of the United Nations in 1945 that safeguarded the territories of all nations and maintained international peace.
However, there are still 16 territories that are under the colonial rule of the UK, the USA and France. These relationships are known as Residual Colonialism. These areas haven’t attained self-government yet and are labelled as NSGTs (Non Self-Governing Territories) that together account for 2 million people under colonial rule. The territories include Western Sahara, the Falkland Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, French Polynesia, Guam and others.
These territories are not just small marks on the world map, but actually have significant economic importance for the colonists. The Cayman Islands and Bermuda are on the top ten list based on GDP per capita, and Guam provides important regional security. Gibraltar and the Falklands are diplomatically disputed, so it is becoming difficult to decolonize them.
Colonialism is nothing but an evil and greedy game of power that needs to be completely eradicated like the rampant disease it is. Apart from physically decolonizing, decolonizing the minds of the colonies is also important, since colonialism still impacts the memory and attitudes of the victims, many of whom find it difficult to move on from those horrors.